Benassai talks about his American dream: Sicily (again) on Netflix with “From Scratch”

The Palermo actor lived the always imagined hypothesis of going to Hollywood. The world of “possible” cinema, which remains science fiction for Italy

On the phone: “Hi Paris, how are you?” – “Benassai, thank you”. Jokes aside, there is no doubt that every actor’s dream is to be able to act in Hollywood. In 2021, fate is on the side of Paride Benassai who lives his aspirations concretely. In Los Angeles and Hollywood she takes part in a TV series for Netflix“From Scratch,” in eight installments, based on Tembi Locke’s best seller of the same name, with production by Reese Witherspoon and directed by Dennie Gordon and Nzingha Stewart, starring Zoe Saldana and Eugenio Mastrandrea.

The series, a love story between a Sicilian chef and an American woman, in which there is no lack of mourning and twists, is scheduled on the platform in these days.

The Palermo actor plays Giacomo, the father of Lino (Mastrandrea). This is how he lives the hypothesis always imagined, never lived, of that “possible” world of entertainment, what remains science fiction for Italy. In America the actor is considered a “resource” with a great respect for art, explains Benassai, unlike Italy which makes certain roles feel like favoritism.


The artists, in the States, are protected and supported even if in a more ruthless world where it is necessary to learn to live in it. Great professionalism and great ability to concentrate are needed to be part of this world that seems like a fairy tale but actually exists. Paride Benassai received inner wealth from American cinema; he wishes this to every actor, he believes that it is an experience of growth and training with a very rare probability that it will happen, unfortunately.

Reaching certain artistic levels that are distant from those experienced is not at all easy; we are children of our time and our space. Considerable adaptability is needed in order not to suffer in front of a scenario never imagined. In Sicily we are light years away from the American reality, especially in this period where in Palermo the Teatro Biondo and the Teatro Massimo are seriously at risk.

The cultural problem is in the last place of the problems of a society. Benassai explains a simple concept as if he were addressing a child: the first thing that happens is an idea followed by a word, and the word is followed by an action, a “doing” that conceives a set of people who are part of a speech. If an idea is excluded, a corporate system is excluded and damaged. The part of the spirituality or the invisibility of the human being is necessary.

He is the soul of humanity As a child, as he himself remembers, he loved being a “funny guy” with his little friends. In fact, at 5 he is already making his debut at Massimo Theater. She responded to the characteristics required to interpret “The Dauphin of France”, for the opera “Maria Antonietta” directed by Aldo Mirabella Vassallo.

In reality they were looking for a child who had blond hair and blue eyes, but since in the corps de ballet there was Marisa, Paris’s sister, this one proposed her little brother even if to tell the truth he was quite moretto. It was her first experience, that time she learned everything by heart with a unique meticulousness! But her first time is actually a song! Adriano Celentano’s “Con twenty-fourmilabaci”, the tune that at the age of 4 sings everywhere, complete with springing, even during the first grade exam!

He sang so well on the teacher’s desk and of course he was promoted to second, but his mother was not convinced and made him repeat the first. Other times! Son of a failed artist, a theatrical mother in all her way of being, and of a serious and strongly ironic father, two parents who are sources of his inspiration, the angels of his greatest successes.

“The immorality of every human being lies within the capacity to love”. At sea, in his holiday home in Mondello, as a boy, he organizes small shows, covering the railings with mats, so as not to give space to the curious and make everyone pay the ticket! 5 lire the seat for three hours of show.

All improvised on the stories of Ciccio Cheese. Well-aligned chairs with an incredible commercial soul. With the proceeds of him he managed to buy mints and candies from the “old man of Valdesi” on a bicycle on the beach of Mondello, for himself and his peers.

In the fifth year of Liceo Umberto I ° he organizes an “improbable cabaret” with his classmates, complete with posters and advertisements, but as few people participate, a very young Mimmo Cuticchio he proposes to try again all together the next day.

To everyone’s pleasure, the show was well attended! And again like the time when for “Pupi e cabaret” wine and panelle were distributed during the interval. A young, healthy, genuine, fun, authentic theater. In 1977 Paride Benassai signs his first employment contract with the “Piccolo Teatro di Palermo”, a great school of actors and playwrights.

The theater he directed for 5 years even though he was the youngest of the group which included Salvo Licata, Nino Drago, Luigi Burruano, Franco Scaldati, Rori Quattrocchi, Giorgio Li Bassi, Toni Sperandeo, Giovanni Alamia, Giacomo Civiletti. A record of receipts is held by the show “Palermo Oh Cara” with 4 years of replicas and a theater that is always full. A beautiful piece of history that tells Palermo and its art.

At 40, Italian television arrives with the film Brancaccio on Father Pino Puglisi, the parish priest killed in Brancaccio in 1993, in front of the front door saying “I was waiting for you”. Paride Benassai plays Father Pino Puglisi’s best friend under the direction of Gianfranco Albano. In 2017 he will also participate in a Docufilm entitled “The last smile” and his mentor will be Franco, the brother of the blessed, so similar that he will tell him a whole life in first person, in the person of Pino Puglisi. An experience to which the actor is strongly attached.

Franco Puglisi, at the end of the making of the docufilm, said “I finally saw my brother at the cinema!”. In 2018 comes “Love will save the world”, the musical about Father Pino Puglisi for the Theater, at the Politeama Theater and at the Teatro di Verdura in Palermo where it is evident a Paride Benassai coinciding in many and great things with those of the parish priest of Brancaccio , so much so that many people, including myself, often ask him: “But did you ever know Father Puglisi?”.

He never knew him but inside himself they live incredible similarities. At the cinema we see it in Giorgio Castellani’s “Grimaldi”, “The Passion of Joshua the Jew” by Pasquale Scimeca, “7 and 8” by Ficarra and Picone, “Baarìa” by Giuseppe Tornatore, “Eighteen o’clock “by Giuseppe Gigliorosso,” Summer time “by Ficarra and Picone,” The last smile “by Rosalinda Ferrante and Sergio Quartana; “La fuitina mistaata” by Mimmo Esposito; “A handful of friends” by Sergio Colabona.

To my question “what is the best thing you’ve done?” Paris replies: «the next one, the one I will do». A way of being, therefore that always looks in perspective, an enthusiastic gaze directed towards the future that can still reserve great surprises starting from tomorrow.

Paris dreams of participating, not possessing, so he dreams of sharing. He hopes to put his experiences at the service of others as well, because everyone else can and must have an evolution, debunking the old saying “he who is born round cannot die square”. Who is born round, according to Benassai, can become square and vice versa.

Every actor or director he met on his journey taught him something: depth, rigor, attention. The greatest master of all in the field of theater and cinema remains the “practice”, the opportunity to repeat the same show for many evenings. The greatest source of professional inspiration is “experience”; the greatest teacher is within us, but he could not be such without the right relationships, he could not meet other illuminations without the light of other people who have made that path. The path is always common, within this there is a journey that is “personal”.

Paride Benassai exhorts the students to never unform, and to be wary of the rules, because each of us is an individual in his own right. After all, the first rule in the theater is that there are no rules. For the Palermo actor it has always been important to privilege the man first and then the artist “, and the actor. The man and the actor support each other, but behind the actor there must necessarily be a man.

And in fact he feels privileged because in a difficult land he managed to do what he loved to do. Paride Benassai now lives in the countryside with 42 animalsin a house surrounded by nature, his indispensable space, from which he learns something every day.

Benassai talks about his American dream: Sicily (again) on Netflix with “From Scratch”